Photo: Rex Arbogast/AP
When Finnish teachers work in U.S. schools, they complain of being tired, rushed and mistrusted, writes Timothy D. Walker in The Atlantic.
Satu Muja teaches six classes a day of English as a Second Language at a Maryland high school. She has one 45-minute “planning period.”
My classes are at three different proficiency levels, and I have four minutes between classes to prepare for the next class. At the same time, I am expected to stand in the hallways to monitor students as [they] transfer from class to class, and to check my email for last-minute updates and changes because of ongoing testing or other events.
I feel rushed, nothing gets done properly; there is very little joy, and no time for reflection or creative thinking (in order to create meaningful activities for students).
Kristiina Chartouni, who teaches foreign languages at a high school, feels “under a microscope.”
Finnish teachers have the freedom “to use their skills, wisdom and shared knowledge for the good of their students’ learning,”writes Pasi Sahlberg, author of Finnish Lessons 2.0, in What if Finland’s great teachers taught in U.S. schools?Without that autonomy, Finnish teachers wouldn’t be effective, he concludes.
Countries that give teachers more autonomy have invested heavily in “changing the pool from which they are selecting their teachers” and educating and supporting teachers, responds Marc Tucker of the National Center on Education and the Economy. “If you don’t do all those things, and all you do is give more autonomy to teachers, watch out.”
On The 74, Matt Barnum debunks the “cult of Finland.”
Simply picking and choosing “best practices” in Finland may lead to confirmation bias — the tendency to highlight policies folks are already predisposed to support.
A study by Britain’s Centre for Policy Studies concludes Finland’s test scores began rising when the system was centralized, “well before” schools gained a high level of autonomy, Barnum notes.
Finland is a relatively homogeneous country with a population roughly the size of Minnesota’s. Even if policymakers could determine what factors have led to Finland’s success, there’s no reason to think that its education policies could be easily exported to and effectively implemented in the United States.